Fools and Children: Part Two
YourFlyness flew through the air ahead of the rest of her party. Like a dandelion seed wafting through the atmosphere, the darigan Buzz could drift and glide or hang and hover on the barest of breezes. Coasting in this manner allowed her to still the drone of her wings, whose thrum signalled her approach. YF was apprehensive about returning to Meridell, but she knew that it was more than her brother’s quest that drew her here; it was Fate. Crossing the border from Brightvale, YF could see the Citadel hovering above the peaceful kingdom below and she felt a pull on her darigan heart. Casting a vigilant eye on her family’s progress on the path far beneath her, the Buzz rode a thermal current higher into the air. YourFlyness scanned the firmament and found the one she had been seeking: her old acquaintance, the Quiggle Scout. YF pulsated her wings nearly imperceptibly, but that was enough to send her floating through the air noiselessly on a path to intercept the Scout.
“Greetingzzzz,” hummed YourFlyness.
The yellow Quiggle spun toward her and nearly tumbled off of his flying apparatus. It was this arrangement of balloons and boards that the darigan Buzz was interested in procuring for her earthbound family.
“Well, burst my bubbles, if it ain’t my old friend YF!” beamed the Quiggle. “You were always a crafty one sneaking up on me. Never trust a darigan, I’ve always said! Har har har.”
The Buzz smiled weakly. She had always been wary in the Quiggle’s company, but it still stung her that he did not believe she could control her darigan nature. Although it had been a long time since she had severed her connection to Lord Darigan, she still remembered what it was like to be one of his unwilling minions.
“So what brings you back here?” asked the yellow Quiggle. “Are you looking for me?”
“Yezzzz. I require some assistanzzzze for my friendzzzz. If you would land in the field there, we could all talk together.”
The Quiggle Scout released some of the air from the balloons holding him aloft and YourFlyness glided down after him. They came down gently in a rolling green meadow and YF’s family soon joined her in watching as the Quiggle anchored his amazing flying device to a stone wall bordering the field. The Quiggle strode toward them, removed his gloves and goggles, and held up his hand in greeting.
“Now,” he said, “what is this all about?”
GitchiManitou, the ghost Krawk, stepped forward and introduced himself. He explained that the quartet was on a quest for Fyora and required transportation to Krawk Island. YourFlyness had described the Quiggle Scout’s flying machine to them, and they had agreed that to approach the island by air would avoid a run-in with the pirates who were known to patrol its seas.
“What we would like,” GM said, “is no less than the secret of flight.”
“Har har har,” laughed the Quiggle Scout. “That secret is free, but the materials needed will no doubt be beyond your reach. Yes, these are ordinary boards and ropes, but the balloons are filled with the enchanted air found in Faerie Bubbles.”
“Could you spare some of that air for our quest?” asked Cavillace, the mutant Draik.
“No. That I could not do. I’m getting low on it myself,” answered the Quiggle.
“Then, where can it be found?” asked Briccriu, the pea Chia.
“Faerie Bubbles can only be won through a contest in Faerieland. But, here’s the rub: if you can’t fly like your Buzz or Draik mates here, you can only reach Faerieland on a device powered by air from Faerie Bubbles,” replied the Quiggle.
“Then, you must fly us there. We will not be put off,” warned GitchiManitou.
“Hold on there. I don’t take orders, even from Krawks like you. My flyer, the only one of its kind in Neopia, can only hold one passenger, and that’s me. As there is nothing in this for me, I won’t be wasting any of my small supply of enchanted air on some illusory quest.”
“Well, what if there was something in this for you?” countered Briccriu. “What if I went to Faerieland, entered the contest, and returned with enough enchanted air for all of us?”
The Quiggle rubbed his chin as though in deep thought and then burst out in a fit of chortling guffaws. The anomalous dissonance between the serious demeanour, the outlandish offer, and the absurd appearance of the pea Chia tickled him beyond control.
“I’ll tell you what,” managed the Quiggle Scout between chuckles and gasps for air, “You can use my flyer to reach Faerieland, and if you manage to win the contest and bring back enchanted air, I will make two flyers for you and your friend there,” he said, nodding at the ghost Krawk. “But,” he said, his tone turning menacing, “if you fail to bring back the enchanted air, or fail to return at all, there will be serious consequences for all of you. And just to make sure you do return with my flyer, your friends will stay with me, right in this place. We’ll call it flight insurance. Har har har. I’m funny too.”
Briccriu held out her hand to shake on the deal but YourFlyness buzzed between the pea Chia and the yellow Quiggle.
“Yezzzz,” said the darigan Buzz to her sister, “thizzzz izzzz a good plan, but I am coming with you to Faerieland.”
She turned to GM and Cavillace.
“If you two will stay with the Scout here azzzz he wishezzzz, Bricc and I will return with the enchanted air azzzz he requestzzzz.”
YF turned to the Quiggle with a quizzical look on her face and he nodded his agreement with the modified plan.
“Well,” stated the Quiggle Scout, “no time like the present, I imagine. Hop on up here, my little pea pal, har har har. I’ll show you the ropes.”
Briccriu wasted no time seating herself on the board between the balloons. With a wave to her siblings who remained behind, she and YourFlyness began their ascent to the Realm of the Faeries in the sky.
The darigan Buzz soared ahead into the atmosphere, following the hidden pathway through the clouds to Faerieland. Although she had not travelled this avenue before, YF had heard tell of the legendary celestial route and her phenomenal vision could discern the way clearly. Not far behind, Briccriu was becoming quite adept at manipulating the balloons and ropes that navigated the Quiggle Scout’s flyer through the misty milieu. The little Chia shifted on the board she was using as a seat and wiped a hand across the green x-ray goggles the Quiggle had loaned to her. Although she should have been concerned about the upcoming contest in Faerieland, Briccriu found the floating sensation to be soothing, and she was soon lost in a happy daydream.
Briccriu’s reverie ended when YourFlyness placed her hand on the pea Chia’s shoulder. “We’re here,” said YF, and Briccriu’s eyes widened as she took in the glorious sight of Faerieland. The sisters looked at each other and wordlessly communicated a common sense of purpose. They were prepared to face whatever lay ahead, to master the first task of Fyora’s Quest and to play their role in destiny.
The sunlight gleamed and glistened like a visual echo as it bounced through the prismatic, cloudy foundation supporting Faerieland. This substratum underpinned a multitude of palatial structures and more mundane shop-fronts. As the sisters flew through the foggy gates to enter Faerie City itself, Briccriu was humbled before Fyora’s imposing palace. The pea Chia held one of her hands up to her brow to cut the glare and surveyed the city. Pulling on the ropes of her flying machine and releasing a small quantity of the enchanted air holding her aloft, Briccriu descended toward the misty footing. Before she could lower a limb onto the clouds, however, her sister, YourFlyness, halted her.
“Pleazzzze, allow me to test it firzzzzt for firmnezzzz,” hummed the darigan Buzz.
Briccriu nodded and watched as YF floated onto the hazy fundament. The Buzz sank slightly into the mist but remained supported as she proceeded to offer a hand to the Chia.
“Well, where to, YF?” asked Briccriu as she disembarked from the flyer and tested her own weight on the clouds.
“I see a building with a sign that sayzzzz, ‘Faerie Questzzzz.’ I think we should start there.”
“Oh, of course, I see it now too,” giggled Briccriu. “Let’s check it out.”
The sisters towed the flyer behind them and tied it to the signpost outside of the Faerie Quest building. When they were certain it was secure, they entered through the wing-shaped doors of the edifice, whereupon a beautiful Neopian Faerie promptly stopped them.
“You don’t have a quest!!!” said the Faerie in a voice that was firm yet kind. “You must wait for us to give you one!”
Briccriu stepped forward and said, “We are on a Grand Quest for Fyora herself and are hoping that you will aid us in acquiring some enchanted air.”
She then told the Faerie their entire story: a tale that began with the revelation of Fyora’s behest in the dream of their brother, GitchiManitou the ghost Krawk, and ended with the Quiggle Scout in Meridell, who was now holding him and their sister, Cavillace the mutant Draik, hostage while the sisters sought the enchanted air of Faerieland.
After Briccriu had finished her story, the Faerie paused and appeared to be weighing the tale for veracity and likelihood. It was with notable hesitation that the Faerie began to speak.
“Fyora did not register this quest with our agency, but the Queen is not obligated to do so. If what you are saying is true, then the ancient prophecy is in the process of being fulfilled; we are on the brink of salvation through a restoration of balance to the elements. If what you are saying is false, and you have some nefarious scheme, then the secret you are requesting could lead to our doom; to the literal downfall of Faerieland, and an unrightable imbalance of the elements. How can I be certain of your intent?”
YourFlyness buzzed nearly noiselessly to get the Faerie’s attention and said sotto voce, “Fyora’s promizzzzed reward izzzz the Shield of the Ancientzzzz. I azzzzume that thizzzz artifact would only be known to thozzzze who are in congress with the Queen?”
The Faerie smiled with visible relief and answered, “Yes. That does make all the difference. I will lead you to where the enchanted air can be found, but I am afraid that I am not permitted to assist you with the challenge you will find there.”
“You have been very kind,” said Briccriu, musing on the Faerie’s words about prophecy and salvation. “Directions are all we seek.”
The Faerie winked at the sisters and led them to the wall at the rear of the Faerie Quest building. She pressed an unobtrusive button and the wall began to smoothly fold in upon itself, revealing an auricular terrain that had not been visible to the sisters as they had approached Faerie City from the air. Briccriu and YourFlyness exchanged looks of astonishment and wonder at what they beheld; Faerie Bubbles of different sorts blocked the pathway for as far as they could see in every direction. The Faerie recognized their wordless confusion and spoke to them.
“Your task here is to clear the path until you reach its very end. If you complete this challenge your reward will be the Air Faerie Bubble that contains an endless supply of enchanted air. If you do not complete this challenge, I am afraid that you will be forever lost in the labyrinth. I sincerely wish you luck but can offer you no more aid.”
The sisters nodded their gratitude to the Faerie, who then pressed the button from inside the building, and they marvelled anew as they watched the clandestine entryway unfold to conceal its ingress. They turned back toward the path and weighed their options as YourFlyness intensely scanned the scene.
“What do you see, YF? Is there a pattern to the bubbles?”
“Yezzzz, there izzzz, Bricc,” said the darigan Buzz as she untied the haversack from around her waist. She rooted through the bag until she found her enchanted cannon and reassembled it to its full size.
“And I think I can uzzzze thizzz to clear them away.”
The two sisters entered the path and YourFlyness aimed her cannon at the bubbles there. They soon learned that the spheres would disappear if three of a kind attached together, but four of a kind would have varying effects; some beneficial and some that made the way more difficult. As they proceeded along the path, they grew more confident in the Buzz’s ability to discern the patterns and also her prowess with aim. This hubris nearly led to their downfall.
The darigan Buzz casually aimed her cannon at what appeared to be a regular repeat in the motif; however, the shot that she fired caused the number of bubbles on the pathway to multiply and draw nearer to them, threatening to overwhelm the sisters and forever block their passage. The Buzz’s eyes grew large with dread and uncertainty, and this alarmed the pea Chia into action. From her own pack, she removed her Ramtors Spellbook and flipped through the pages seeking an appropriate spell. Nodding with satisfaction, Briccriu chanted “bubbles” softly, and with a wave of her hand, all of the bubbles in their vicinity turned the same colour. Now, one shot from YF’s cannon cleared the way for several meters. Thus, they proceeded; the Buzz popping the bubbles that she determined were of the common pattern, and the Chia referring to her tome for spells which would transform the errant bubbles into the common pattern. In this way, they cleared the path and reached the end of the maze.
“I don’t know what I was expecting here, YF, maybe a flash of light or a clap of thunder announcing our success. This is obviously the end of the path, and I don’t know what our next move is,” said Briccriu.
The Buzz drifted up into the air and flew around, surveying the area. A faint glint caught her eye and she descended to investigate. Spotting a stoppered flask, YourFlyness picked it up and returned it to where her sister was standing.
“What do you think thizzzz izzzz?” asked YourFlyness.
Briccriu held the bottle up to her eyes and shook her head.
“It’s not clear enough to see inside. Hang on a second.”
She rummaged in her pack, pulled out the Quiggle Scout’s x-ray goggles, placed them on her face, and looked again at the bottle.
“Why, it’s a tiny Faerie. We need to release her!”
The Buzz nodded her agreement and Briccriu uncorked the bottle.
There was a blinding coruscation and a towering Faerie stood glowing before them.
“I am Psellia, the Air Faerie of Fyora’s Court, and I bless you both. You have freed me from my inequitable imprisonment, and as a reward, please take the Air Faerie Bubble that you no doubt seek and have undeniably earned. The Element of Air has regained balance with my release. You must also take with you the Golden Lock from which you have freed me. These are the times of prophecy and deliverance is at hand.”
The sisters stood before Psellia with their heads bowed and received the blessings and gifts of the Faerie. Her departure was accompanied by a gust that nearly knocked them over and they raised their faces just in time to observe a funnel cloud coalescing with the horizon. They slowly turned to face each other with a shocked solemnity which soon dissolved into a fit of laughter that had them rolling on the ground uncontrollably.
“We did it, YF! We have the Air Faerie Bubble and the first of the artifacts that Gitch was commanded to find!”
At the mention of their brother’s name, YourFlyness sat upright and said, “Yezzzz. We have succeeded in thizzzz part of the Quezzzzt, but there izzzz much more to be done. Let’zzzz get back to Meridell and get the otherzzzz.”
Briccriu agreed. She began to pack up their belongings, and then, after a nod to YourFlyness signalling that everything was ready, the sisters hastened back along the cleared path. When they arrived back at the Faerie Quest building, they found a button recessed in the wall and Briccriu pressed it enthusiastically. After a short wait, the wall began to glide in upon itself and the pair marched into the structure, victorious. The Quest Faerie was speechless and the pea Chia flushed with pride at their triumph. She turned to the Faerie, bowed, and strode out the doorway to where the flyer was moored. In a short time, the pair was ready to begin their descent and they proceeded through the clouds and on to Meridell.
When they arrived at the terrestrial Kingdom, they discovered that neither their siblings nor the Quiggle Scout were in the location where they had agreed to meet.
“Not to worry, Bricc. I happen to know where thizzzz Quiggle makes hizzzz secret camp. There wazzzz a time when I wazzzz obliged to deliver the entry feezzzz cheated from contestantzzzz at the Ultimate Bullzzzzeye to hizzzz home in the hillzzzz. Let’zzzz go and get the otherzzzz.”
The pea Chia nodded and they flew up and over the Ixi who ran the Shapeshifter game and the Mortog waiting to be kissed. Higher and higher they flew until they reached the top of Cheeseroller Hill. There, behind the Techo’s Cheese Shop was a hut, and behind the hut was the Quiggle Scout turning the soil in a small vegetable garden. Briccriu reached up and released some of the enchanted air from the balloons of the flyer in order to make her landing, and the slight hissing sound it made caused the Quiggle Scout to look up at them with alarm. He dropped his hoe and began to run to the cover of the forest, but YourFlyness intercepted and knocked the yellow Quiggle to the ground.
“Where are they?” droned the darigan Buzz. “Why are you running?”
“You - you have to understand, old friend,” whined the Quiggle Scout. “No one has ever come back from a quest to Faerieland. No one. And me, I’m just a simple peasant farmer. I was so tired of working as a Scout, relieved really when you took away my flyer so I could be done with it, so when they came...”
“When who came?” asked Briccriu, nearly breathless from running from where she had ditched the flyer.
“The pirates,” replied the Quiggle Scout abashedly. “Soon after you left, a couple of pirates came ashore, said they were from Krawk Island. They offered to take your friends off my hands, and it was an offer I could not refuse, I swear.”
“An offer? Did you sell our brother and sister?” screamed the pea Chia.
“What could I do?” answered the Quiggle Scout quietly. “You can’t say no to pirates. And besides... you had my flyer and... I had no means of employment and... no way of knowing that you would be coming back. I need to eat too, har har har. They said they wanted to bring them to Tyrannia, for profit.”
YourFlyness felt the injustice sitting like a stone in her gut and she turned to the yellow Quiggle with the full force of righteous fury.
“We had an agreement, Scout. You wanted Faerie Bubblezzzz, and you will get them.”
With that, the darigan Buzz pulled out her cannon again and fired at the Quiggle Scout, encasing him in a filmy prison.
“You will be releazzzzzed when our brother and sizzzzter are safely home.”
She turned to her stunned sister and felt the fury abating. In a quieter voice she said, “We muzzzzt get to Tyrannia.”
“I agree,” concurred Briccriu, and remembering Psellia’s words, she whispered, “These are the times of prophecy and deliverance is at hand.”
To be continued...